I meet a lot of leaders who realize they need to reinvent their organisation. They need to prepare themselves for the digital world and realize that their current strategy is not serving them anymore: 

  • They don’t get the results they expect, at least not as rapidly as hoped
  • What used to work in the past, doesn’t anymore
  • Their customers expect more and more without being ready to pay extra
  • Everyone is working really hard because there are so many things to do
  • There are collaboration issues, communication issues, resistance to change, stress,…

Some leaders ask me to help them reinvent their organisation. The problem is that they expect me to help them using the business techniques of the past.

They think they need a new competitive advantage, something that really sets them apart from their competitors. Then they expect a detailed business plan to deliver that competitive advantage. Also, the management team will isolate itself and come back with a plan that needs to be implemented. Or some management teams already came up with a great plan to reinvent themselves and believe they now need a change manager to help them implement that plan in the organisation.

I had to reinvent my business techniques first

And that is what I thought too when I started as a CEO and needed to reinvent my organisation. With my management team, we would analyze things, get input from everywhere then go somewhere for a couple of days and come back with a new strategy, a new competitive advantage, a detailed business plan and/or a new organisation. We would announce it and implement the plan. That would create a lot of stress and resistance at first, then after a while the people would get used to it and we would get better results.

The problem is that we used to do this every couple of years in the past, then the need to transform the organisation came every 2 years, then every year, then every couple of months.  People were in constant stress and in change. They didn’t have the time to adapt themselves to the new situation because another one was already there.

I realized at some point that reinventing my organisation by using the business techniques of the past didn’t work anymore. It is not about coming up with a new competitive advantage or new detailed business plans. It is not about rolling out a strategy that the “top” came up with.

Reinventing my organisation meant reinventing my business techniques first. Today, it is about increasing the customer experience, adopting new business models, forming new ecosystems, becoming agile, increasing empowerment, prototyping,…

The storm before the calm

More and more leaders try to adopt new business techniques. But the thing is that implementing these can feel chaotic at times. We are not used to chaos, we don’t like it, we have been educated to control things and people, and avoid chaos. But it is often in chaos that creativity comes, that we can reinvent ourselves and be agile.

“Without order nothing can exist. Without chaos nothing can evolve.” —Oscar Wilde

And I went through chaotic phases when we transformed but fortunately, we didn’t stay there, there was structure again after the chaos. But we went constantly through both phases, the chaos for evolving and adapting followed by the structure to get things done.

I believe that many leaders don’t manage to reinvent themselves because they still use the techniques of the past and they feel too uncomfortable in chaos.

How you manage chaos can really impact your results and peacefulness positively. And the good news is: there are things you can do to better handle chaos.

Leading your organisation through digital times

I will be conducting a workshop on this topic on August 29th at the Solvay Leadership Summer Camp. “Leading your organisation through digital times” will teach you how to successfully transform your organisation to help it thrive in an era of digital disruption.

See you there,

Murielle Machiels
Founder @ QiLi and Academic Director “Leading Authentically in Digital Times” @ Solvay Brussels School